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whole world, Acts iii. 19, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
A REVIEW OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF MANY IN CONNECTION WITH THE THINGS WHICH HAVE BEEN STATED SHOWN TO MAKE REPROOF SEASONABLE.
If a new creation be available, and important, and even of such absolute necessity to the souls of men, then what shall we say of non-pretenders to it, and of mere pretenders to it?
1. There are some in the world, that plainly say in words or deeds, that they are as they have been, and so will continue; they trouble not themselves about these new things, but say, I am semper idem, still the same: I thank God, I am no turn-coat, nor will I meddle with them that are given to change, I love the old way.
To this I answer, Take that text with you, Jer. vi. 16,"Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein." Mark it, not simply the old way, except it be good; for there are many old ways that are not good: Cain's way is old enough, so is Balaam's and Korah's, yet there is a woe unto them that walk in those ways, Jude, 11. The woman of Samaria boasted, that their father Jacob gave them the well, and that her ancestors
did worship in that mountain, John iv. 12, 20, 24: but our Lord teacheth her other doctrines. It was no good plea of the Jews, that they did as their fathers had done," in burning incense to the queen of heaven,” though they pleaded great success; then, say they, "We had of plenty of victuals, and saw no evil," Jer. xliv. 17, 18, which may be compared with God's answer to them, ver. 21, 22. But let me say to
(1.) That this plea is an aggravation of the fault. If it be not a good way, every step you take in it, is a new error, and brings new guilt: "the way of the wicked seduceth him."* Have you examined, whether this be God's way or not? If you be wrong, the further you go, the further you are from God.
(2.) This continuance in old customs without inquiry will harden your hearts, and make you more incapable, yea, more unwilling to return. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, and the leopard his spots, then may ye also learn to do good, that are accustomed to do evil," Jer. xiii. 23. Custom in sin takes away conscience of sin; the more men travel, the more brawny are their feet.
(3.) But what think you, Adam went wrong, and do you delight to follow him? or rather should not the old man be crucified? Rom. vi. 6. You have no reason for being proud of the old man, "which is corrupt according to deceitful lusts, but rather put on this new man, which after God is created in righteousness, and true holiness," Eph. iv. 22, 24. See a parallel betwixt the first Adam and second, 1 Cor. xv. 45-49; and then make your choice.
(4.) You will never walk in heaven's road, without a change; deceive not yourselves, you must be turned
*Vetustas erroris seductio errantis.
from your vain conversation, received by tradition from your fathers, 1 Pet. i. 18. You will never walk in this new and living way, without a new heart; you cannot serve God, but "it must be in newness of spirit, not in the oldness of the letter," Rom. vii. 6. You are undone, if you die as you are born; you need not change your religion, for you profess the true religion, only you must see that you be true to that religion by a change of heart and life; "Except you be born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God," John iii. 3; better never have been born, than not be newborn: but more of this anon. Tremble to think of appearing before God naked, or in your old rotten garments. The Gibeonites might cheat Israel with their old bottles, clouts, and shoes, Josh. ix. 4; but you cannot cozen God so; an old frame is not fit for a new state; or old hearts for new heavens; "if you live after the flesh, you shall die,” that is, perish for ever, Rom. viii. 13; but if you through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live," that is, be saved.
There are many more that are far from being new creatures, that have a black brand of impiety printed on their foreheads, and disclaim any pretence to this new creation.
[i.] Such as have imbibed atheistical principles, and say with their tongues or in their hearts, "there is no God," Psal. xiv. 1; at least deists, that deny God's providence, and divine revelation.
[ii.] Profane scoffers at true christian piety and the power of godliness, 2 Pet. iii. 3; ridiculing puritans, and loading strictness in religion, with names of obloquy, scorn, and derision.
[iii.] Those who are profoundly ignorant of gospel mysteries, 1 Cor. xv. 34, and the essentials of religion,
the knowledge whereof is of the highest importance and necessity, and yet do scorn to learn.
[iv.] Voluptuous epicures, drunkards, adulterers, and such as wallow in all sensuality and immorality, without control or remorse, and glory in their shame, Phil. iii. 19.
[v.] Proud, contentious, revengeful, hateful, hating all about them, Tit. iii. 3; that evidently manifest the fruits, or works of the flesh, Gal. v. 19, 20, in bitter revilings, suits at law, and variance about trifles.
[vi.] Covetous, griping earth-worms, that make gain their godliness, gold their god, Col. iii. 5; these are idolaters, that are hard-hearted to the poor, but please themselves with worldly enjoyments, Luke xii. 19.
[vii.] Swearers, profane takers of the name of God in vain, foolish talkers, jesters, liars, Eph. v. 4, 5, who think that their tongues are their own, and that they may say what they list.
[viii] Neglecters of God's worship, public, private, and secret, who never call on God except with horrid imprecations, yea, who even think it is in vain to serve God, Mal. iii. 14, and hate such as do.
Such flagitious offenders there are in the world, yea, in England, that make a scoff at the name of the Spirit and grace of Christ, and will own no regeneration, but what they imagine they receive in baptism, which yet they grossly contradict, as if they would scorn, and run counter to bible-religion and morality itself; these profligates I remit to the righteous judgment of the great God, because I have little hopes they will read such a plain Treatise as this, or hear any powerful preacher; and so are out of the road of ordinary means of grace, or hopes of good.
2. But those I have at present to deal with, are pre
tenders, and but mere pretenders to this new creation, who have something like it, which will not prove the new creature, but a dead carcase, a lifeless image of it; many of our constant, diligent attenders on all ordinances, are apt to say, "I thank God, I hope I am a new creature." To which I answer, it is well if it prove so; but the apostle saith, "Not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth," 2 Cor. x. 18. And Solomon saith, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death," Prov. xiv. 12. But persons had need to beware taking counters for gold, pebbles for pearls: there is much counterfeit ware passeth for current coin now a-days. May not an angel be put up for a sign when the devil is within ? Are not many professors like the Pharisees, painted sepulchres," that appear fair, but within are full of rottenness, and dead men's bones," Matt. xxiii. 27, 28. Like a golden saddle stuffed with straw; or apothecaries' boxes, with specious titles, but empty of useful drugs; so it is said, a specious title, but nothing within of what is promised.* Alas, how many professors have we known acting the part of kings on the stage, who were beggars in rags, when divested of their gilded robes of a splendid profession? How many have the complexion, but not the constitution of saints? one calls them deaf nuts, another, apples of Sodom, a third, cockles and darnel, that make a fairer show than good wheat, but must be cast out. There were some of old, that desired to "make a fair show in the flesh," Gal. vi. 12; but are like vapouring tradesmen, that make a great show to gain credit, but if searched into, possibly not worth a groat, when their debts are paid; such there always have been, and it is well if the world be mended.
* Aliud in titulo, aliud in pyxide.